An unknown legend

Missy Votel - 09/22/2016

Neil Young is one of the last, great shows on my bucket list.

I take pride in the fact that, over the last few decades, I have knocked off many of my musical idols, from Johnny Cash and Dylan to The Replacements and The Cure (it was 1986, don’t judge.) I’ve even ticked off a few that, while not necessarily my cup of tea, were iconic “must-sees,” including Michael Jackson (1985 – again, don’t judge), U2 and most recently, Pearl Jam (of which I have become a closet convert.)

And there’s those who, I will, unfortunately never get to see, like Bob Marley, Elvis and Journey (although, secretly, I am still holding out hope for a Neal Schon-Steve Perry reunion.)

So naturally, when I heard Old Neil (Lynyrd Skynyrd’s words, not mine) was coming to Telluride, I practically swooned. Yes, I know – he is an acquired taste, like goat cheese, cilantro or wool turtlenecks. You either love him, or he makes you want to gag or claw at your own skin to make it stop.

Of course, I fall into the former camp. There’s something about the nasally, Canadian twang of his voice that reminds me of home. The at-once tinny yet ear-splitting reverb of his guitar that harkens back to those days of vinyl, macramé and low-grade weed, where it apparently was OK to shoot your baby down by the river, or at least sing about it. And, let’s face it, those chops – enough to make Abe Lincoln and every hipster within a 500-mile radius green with envy.

Real rock and roll.

I checked the dates, determined I could shoehorn the show in – a quick one-night, in-and-out between houseguests and kids birthdays – and got online to book a place.

This was July, mind you, and rooms were already booking fast – and at a premium. Which for Telluride, is more than the GDP for many developing countries.

Yes, technically, I could camp in Town Park for the relative bargain of $80. Or, if I was really desperate, I could sleep in my car. None of this is beneath me. In fact, I once couch-surfed at the Lizard Lounge, where I may or may not have eaten a stale pizza crust out of a discarded pizza box. But, that was a lifetime ago – back when I was young and resilient, and strange smells and stains didn’t seem to bother me. Or if they did, I was able to imbibe enough that they eventually didn’t.

Nowadays, though, I prefer the comforts of clean sheets, indoor plumbing that has been cleaned in the last decade and couches that don’t smell like wet dog, patchouli and bong water. Plus, and this is no offense to Town Park campers, the last time I stayed there, I was awoken at 5 a.m. by a howling, naked man screaming from atop the nearby tailings pile. (*Although it was dark and I could not confirm he was naked, anyone insane enough to think that screaming from a hill top above a sleeping campground is a good idea, surely thinks ditching his skivvies is also an equally good idea.) 

So, with visions of Naked Howling Man in my head, and a backup plan that, if god forbid, one of the offspring were to join us there would be enough room, I hit “confirm.” We were going to live large – even if it was for just one night.

The credit card was charged and I was secure in knowing I had snatched up one of the last rentals in town to see one of the last living rock legends.

At last, Neil Young and I had a date with destiny. I came close, years ago when I saw CSN – from which Young was conspicuously absent. No disrespect to his former bandmates – but somewhere during “Helplessly Hoping” I started helplessly drooling.

But I had high hopes for Neil, knowing full well that if any septuagenarian was going to blow doors on the box canyon, it was him.

And six weeks later, when there was absolutely not a Canadian’s chance in Hell of booking another place, I got the call – which I ignored because it was a 1-800 number – followed by an email. The condo I had rented (which I will decline to name except to say it shares the same first six letters as Lorenzo Lamas, who is not nearly as lame, which is saying a lot) was suddenly and mysteriously “unavailable.”

The folks at “Booking.com” – whom I have no qualms about naming –  surely were sorry about the misunderstanding. And while there were no comparable properties available for that night, they did find a nice hotel room for me. In Ouray.

It was at this point – when I saw my chance slipping away of hearing “Cowgirl in the Sand” (or perhaps it is now “Cowgirl in the Tar Sands?”) booming off the canyon walls – that my normally cool, calm demeanor started melting. OK, we’re talking full-on Connipsey Russell. At which point, I kindly explained to this geographically challenged cubicle worker from god-knows-where, that Ouray is an hour away – in the opposite direction.

Once up to speed on Google maps, he returned with the offer of paying for my gas to drive home that night. While I did entertain thoughts of sending them the bill for my four-hour Uber ride, it violated many of my travel principles, namely that time spent getting to/fro destination should never be more than time spent at said destination.

In other words, helpless, helpless, helpless.

With that, I apologized to customer service guy – again – for my profanity, since I knew it wasn’t his fault, and pledged to never use his company again. I’m pretty sure I heard him shaking in his boots, right before he yawned, rolled his eyes and hung up.

Within a few days, my money was refunded and I slowly starting coming to grips with the fact that perhaps Neil and I just weren’t meant to meet this time around. On the upside, I was now a couple hundred dollars richer, and Neil, while not getting any younger (insert name pun here), is practically a babe compared to Willie and Mick.  

Plus, with the money I saved, I was able to buy the karaoke machine my daughter – OK, I – wanted for her birthday. Now, me and the Old Man can get together any time we want.

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